We’ve all seen garden gnomes set out in gardens, but what’s the story behind them? Why did people start setting out statues of these tiny men with beards and pointy red hats?
Small gnome statues began appearing in Europe in the early 1600s, but the garden or lawn gnomes as we know them appeared in Germany in the mid- to late 1800s. The gnome was used because local myths suggested that underground gnomes came alive at night to work in the garden and protect the gardens from evil sorcery. From Germany, garden gnome popularity quickly spread throughout Europe to France and England, and eventually the statues made their way into gardens in North America.
Garden Gnome Fun Facts
- The garden gnome is called “Gartenzwerg” in German, which translates to “garden dwarf.”
- There are 25 million garden gnomes in Germany today.
While garden gnome production began in Germany, most are made in Poland or China today.
- The largest garden gnome in the world sits in Poland and is almost 18 feet tall.
- Those who reject these figurines in the garden are often seen as garden snobs.
- “Gnoming” is the practice of stealing garden gnomes as a prank. In France, the “Garden Gnome Liberation Front” would “free” garden gnomes from forced garden labor by sending them back into the wild or by sending them on trips around the world.
- The traveling gnome prank involves stealing a gnome and photographing it in front of famous places, such as Big Ben in London, and then sending the photographs to the previous owner.
- Each year at the Inman Park Festival in Atlanta, Georgia, marchers dress up as garden gnomes to try to break the Guinness World Record of the most marching gnomes. Britain currently holds the world record with 478 marching gnomes (as of 2012).